Standout Seniors: Meet Briana Young

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications,  Penn State Behrend

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2018 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and the things they’ve accomplished and learned while here at Behrend. Over the next couple months, we’ll be introducing you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technology, participated in important research projects, and left an impression at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Briana Young.

Briana Young

Briana with the 2004 Mini Cooper she restored.

Major: Physics

Minor: Mathematics

Hometown: Port Allegany, Pennsylvania

On choosing her major: My high school physics teacher had a poster in his classroom that listed a bunch of careers you can pursue with a physics degree. I love understanding how everything works, and I knew I’d never be bored with physics.

Scholarships: I have been the lucky recipient of the LORD Corporation Scholarship and the National Science Foundation STEM Scholarship.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend? I have two. The first is when I got an internship with LORD Corporation the summer before my sophomore year. The second is when I was asked to present my undergraduate research work at the American Physical Society conference in Los Angeles this spring.

Campus involvement: I have been involved with an array of organizations on campus. In my first two years, I was involved with International Student Organization where I was able to meet so many people that I never would have met in my small town. In my sophomore year, I was accepted into Lambda Sigma Honor Society and into Pi Mu Epsilon, a national math honor society, in my junior year. I have also been part of Campus Health and Fitness, which is a new club on campus.

What makes her unique: I have a handful of hobbies. I am very into art and I have my own Etsy account. I love cooking, hiking, and camping. I also have completed two half marathons while in college.

What you would be surprised to know about her: My car is a 2004 Mini Cooper that I bought as a wreck and fixed up. I learned how to do it from my dad who has done body work on cars his entire life.

On being a champion for Women in Physics: The longer I have been in school the more involved I have gotten with Women in Physics. In January, I attended a Women in Physics conference that made me realize there would be a lot more of us in this field if it weren’t for self-doubt. I am passionate about encouraging other generations of girls to get excited about physics.

On giving back: I want to involve myself with outreach and teaching kids in the community the importance of science. (Editor’s note: No doubt she’ll have that chance at LORD, as they are an avid supporter of Penn State Behrend’s K-12 Outreach programs, often allowing their engineers to help lead events and each workshops for young students.)

Inspiration at home: My parents inspire me every day. They both work hard for their own success and still manage to dedicate a great deal of their time to helping others. They are both involved in different programs to help troubled kids and they inspire me to not only work hard for myself and my family, but also to actively help others.

Advice for new students: There are no shortcuts to get to where you want to be. It’ll be hard and frustrating, but keep your eyes on your ultimate goals. And don’t forget to take care of both your body and your mind.

Briana has accepted a position as a quality engineer at LORD Corporation following her graduation in May.

Move over, Bill Nye. Penn State Behrend has its own ‘Science Guy’

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Joel Solomon (3)

Joel Solomon, a physics major, was the recipient of this year’s T. Reed Ferguson Award. The award recognizes a junior who has demonstrated scholarship, leadership and citizenship through academic and out-of-class involvement and gives promise of further achievement in the senior year.

For some kids, it’s Cartoon Network. For others, it’s Nickelodeon. For Joel Solomon, it was the Science channel?

“Growing up, I just always watched that channel,” says Solomon, who recently completed his junior year at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. “I was fascinated by what humanity has been able to do over the years, and I knew that I wanted to be a part of that.”

Math and science resonated with Solomon, and that interest led the New Wilmington, Pa., native to Penn State Behrend. As he got older, he knew he wanted to pursue research in college, and he could think of no better destination than Behrend.

“Being able to get a great education at a small campus is great,” says Solomon, a physics major. “I was looking for a research-oriented institution, and Behrend is one of the few schools in the region that offers such opportunities. I know that with a degree from here, I can go anywhere that I choose.”

This past year, Solomon collaborated with Bruce Wittmershaus, associate professor of physics, on a research project titled, “Concentration Dependence of Coated Gold Nanoparticles for Metal Enhanced Fluorescence.” The project was recognized as the Best Poster Presentation this past April at the Sigma Xi Undergraduate Student Research and Creative Accomplishment Conference.

Undergraduate research has been a big part of his time at the college, but Solomon’s interests go beyond the academic realm. For the past three years, he’s been a goalie on the men’s soccer team. This past year, Solomon was inducted into Chi Alpha Sigma, a national society that honors collegiate student-athletes who excel in both the classroom and in athletic competition. The society recognizes student-athletes who received a varsity letter in their sport while maintaining a cumulative GPA of 3.4 or higher throughout their junior and/or senior years. Solomon is also a former AMCC All-Academic selection.

“I feel as if soccer complements my academics. Just being physically active helps me keep up with my coursework,” he says.

Solomon’s accomplishments on the field and in the classroom played a key role in his receiving the 2014-15 T. Reed Ferguson Award last April at the college’s 66th annual Honors and Awards Convocation. The award recognizes a junior who has demonstrated scholarship, leadership and citizenship through academic and out-of-class involvement and gives promise of further achievement in the senior year.

“I was very happy to receive the award, and it was nice to know my work is paying off,” Solomon says. “It just reassured me that I’m on the right path, but I know there’s more that I can do.”

Solomon will get the chance to fulfill that promise of further achievement this fall, continuing his undergraduate research as the recipient of a grant to explore the topic of “Enhancing the Photostability of Fluorophores Using Metal Enhanced Fluorescence.”

For the future, Solomon plans to attend graduate school and possibly work with optics. His ultimate goal, though, has its roots in the programs he watched on Science as a boy.

“My dream job is always going to be something with NASA. I have always been fascinated by all of NASA’s accomplishments,” he says, “so that’s the dream, and that’s what I’ll keep working toward.”